Earthquake in Central Virginia

We had an earthquake here yesterday, which I compare to the California quakes I have felt.

Posted: Aug 24, 2011 09:11 am

Yesterday we had a 5.8 earthquake in central Virginia, near Louisa and Mineral, about 40 miles away. I felt it strongly here in Mechanicsville, and ran out of the house. The earthquake felt like a long rumble of thunder, or standing near the railroad tracks as a fast train goes by. The house shook for about 15 seconds, with a steady vibration or buzz, rather than a jolt or sway. At first I thought someone was opening our overhead garage door, then I wondered if a truck had hit our house, and finally I realized, oh, an earthquake! I got up from my chair and zoomed out the front door.

I experienced three or four big earthquakes when I lived in California, including Loma Prieta 1989 during the World Series and the big Landers 1992 quakes, and I can tell you that this one felt much different. In the California earthquakes, the ground moved back and forth laterally, in a series of rolling waves that made it difficult to remain standing on your feet, like trying to stand up in a small rowboat or canoe. This quake in central Virginia was different, more like a long constant buzz or rumble, a vibration in all directions, without the feeling of rolling waves of movement. This quake felt like the earth had become one of those Electric Football toys of the 60s and 70s, where the metal field vibrated to move the little football players around.

Commenters from around the world have joked about the “over-reaction” of people on the East Coast to such a small earthquake, in which no buildings collapsed and there was little damage. Except in Mineral and Louisa, nothing fell off shelves and no dishes were broken. It is true that in terms of ground motion, I’ve felt much larger quakes. But it must be kept in mind that earthquakes are rare here, and this was the “quake baptism” for many people. Also, mid-plate earthquakes are felt much more widely, as the tectonic plate vibrates over a wider area, rather than the grinding and gnashing of tectonic plates at their crumbled edges, as in California and Japan. Plus, as I explained above, this quake felt different. But, yes, there has been some over-reaction, too.

Below is the USGS Shake Map for the 5.8 Louisa, Virginia quake. The quake’s seismographic measurements were stronger to the northeast of the epicenter. The shaking near Richmond was less, measured in the 4 to 4.5 range.

People felt the quake to be stronger to the northeast, too, as the USGS Did you feel it page shows:

The earthquake was felt all over the mid-Atlantic region:

Here is a link to the Times-Dispatch article on the quake, 5.8-magnitude quake shakes central Virginia, East Coast.

Here is the Wikipedia page: 2011 Virginia earthquake.

Here is a facebook page for the quake: I survived the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia/Maryland 8/23/11

NPR has a good page here: Why A Quake In Virginia Isn’t As Rare As It Sounds

There have been four significant aftershocks, (though all unfelt by me), making this a series of five quakes (so far).

  • 5.8 Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 01:51:04 PM (EDT) 37.936N 77.933W USGS Page
  • 2.8 Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 02:46:50 PM (EDT) 37.931°N, 77.935°W USGS Page
  • 2.2 Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 03:20:26 PM (EDT) 37.911°N, 78.004°W USGS Page
  • 4.2 Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 08:04:36 PM (EDT) 37.912°N, 77.951°W USGS Page
  • 3.4 Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 12:45:26 AM (EDT) 37.925°N, 77.994°W USGS Page

More aftershocks.

  • 2.5 Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 12:06:47 AM (EDT) 37.923°N, 77.988°W USGS Page
  • 4.5 Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 01:07:50 AM (EDT) 37.940°N, 77.896°W USGS Page
    I felt this one, a small rumble, which shook the house for about 5 seconds.
  • 2.3 Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 02:37:31 AM (EDT) 37.912°N, 77.969°W USGS Page
  • 2.4 Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 11:27:47 AM (EDT) 37.951°N, 77.924°W USGS Page
  • 2.6 Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 07:40:56 PM (EDT) 37.903°N, 77.814°W USGS Page
  • 2.1 Friday, August 26, 2011 at 06:52:22 PM (EDT) 37.888°N, 77.939°W USGS Page

I made a Google Map tracking the quake and its aftershocks. Click the pointers to see which temblor is which.

View Virginia Earthquake 2011 in a larger map
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